The company has grown into a global media and technology company providing coverage on a variety of topics including politics, DIY, animals and business. In late 2011, Ben Smith of Politico was hired as editor-in-chief to expand the site into serious journalism, long-form journalism, and reportage. The website has met criticism over accusations of plagiarism.
Prior to establishing BuzzFeed, Peretti was director of research and development and the OpenLab at Eyebeam, Johnson's New York City-based art and technology nonprofit, where he experimented with other viral media.
While working at the Huffington Post, Peretti started BuzzFeed as a side project, in 2006, in partnership with his former supervisor John Johnson. In the beginning, BuzzFeed employed no writers or editors, just an "algorithm to cull stories from around the web that were showing stirrings of virality." The site initially launched an instant messaging client, BuzzBot, which messaged users a link to popular content. The messages were sent based on algorithms which examined the links that were being quickly disseminated, scouring through the feeds of hundreds of blogs that were aggregating them. Later, the site began spotlighting the most popular links that BuzzBot found. Peretti hired curators to help describe the content that was popular around the web. In 2011, Peretti hired Politico's Ben Smith, who earlier had achieved much attention as a political blogger, to assemble a news operation in addition to the many aggregated "listicles".
In August 2014, BuzzFeed raised $50 million from the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, more than doubling previous rounds of funding. The site was reportedly valued at around $850 million by Andreessen Horowitz. BuzzFeed generates its advertising revenue through native advertising that matches its own editorial content, and does not rely on banner ads. Buzzfeed also uses its familiarity with social media to target conventional advertising through other channels, such as Facebook.
In December 2014, growth equity firm General Atlantic acquired $50M in secondary stock of the company.
In August 2015, NBCUniversal made a $200 million equity investment in Buzzfeed. Along with plans to hire more journalists to build a more prominent "investigative" unit, BuzzFeed is hiring journalists around the world and plans to open outposts in India, Germany, Mexico, and Japan.
In October 2016, BuzzFeed raised $200 million from Comcasts TV and movie arm NBCUniversal, at a valuation of roughly $1.7 billion.
BuzzFeed's first acquisition was in 2012 when the company purchased Kingfish Labs, a startup founded by Rob Fishman, initially focused on optimizing Facebook ads.
On October 28, 2014, BuzzFeed announced its next acquisition, taking hold of Torando Labs. The Torando team was to become BuzzFeed's first data engineering team.